Confessions of a Copycat……
Posted by everlookphotography
Have you ever seen an image of a location then try to photograph it in a similar fashion?
Have you ever seen someone else present an image of a location whose composition matches yours by coincidence?
Do you aim primarily to create ‘marketable’ images or enhance your own sense of creativity from photography?
As a result of the above questions, do you actively seek the common viewpoints or go out of your way to avoid them?
As generations pass closer to the end of the alphabet, there seems to be increasing affordability of DSLR technology, post processing software and ways to share images with the rest of the world. It should therefore come as no surprise that there are many more images of locations both iconic and obscure. There are more images of specific themes such as the milky way over a subject of foreground interest. There are more images which display both tasteful and tasteless HDR style post processing. There are simply more shopping cartfuls of images BUT seemingly at the cost of originality, introspection and quality. Quality is still there but ever so much more diluted which to many, makes the overall experience akin to drinking watered-down fine wine.
As I attempt to honestly answer the questions asked to begin this blog, I should also honestly state my intentions as an amateur landscape photographer. The reason I am doing this , is in protest to many bloggers (some big names included) who love to claim the moral high ground and disclaim any ‘ulterior’ motives. I would also like to present a few images of icons we have photographed with our initial reactions and motivations. First, my intentions (I can’t speak for Marianne):
– As an amateur photographer with a full time ‘day’ job, my opportunities for photography are limited . Hence, any time invested in photography, I try to maximise : both in the experience and the final product. Combining hiking, personal time for reflection and the technical know how to record the places I have been are key elements. If I am visiting a country which I will likely not ever visit again (at least in the near future) I want to know what the best locations are, I want to know what has been photographed there in the past, I want to know what time of the year will be best suited to my visit. I do not have the luxury of treating the journey as a scouting opportunity nor do I have the annual leave to allow adequate time to explore locations beyond routes which have been trodden in the past. I no longer have the liberty nor the extreme adventurous psyche to make holidays with no fixed itinerary , especially with a young child in tow. In short, I want to see the sights which have impressed me from my research and I am driven by a desire to record those sights in different ways.
– As a routine user of the internet, I suffer from several afflictions which are common to the generic photo-sharing user. I have a desire for recognition and ‘back-patting’ which is only fuelled further by prior successes. I have the attention span of Guy Pearce’s character from Momento when it comes to viewing the work of others at the end of a long day at my ‘real’ job. Unless I set aside time to provide thoughtful critique, I am guilty of mashing that ‘like’ /’vote’ /’fave’ button on various sites to show others just how supportive I am of their work. I do like to share the places I have seen and my interpretation of the world through our cameras and post capture techniques. I have used the word ‘I’ many times in this paragraph which is entirely consistent with the need to support a fragile ego by continuing this practice.
– As someone who does not have to make a living from photography, I fully understand if my attitudes may offend those who do. I like to think that our images go beyond images of icons and images which have been ‘done before’ but there is a degree of ‘copycatting’ with many of our images and what better example to discuss than our homepage!
The top left image is of an usual rock at Robe. After seeing some amazing images from Joel Durbridge (Dub photography on facebook), I asked Joel about this location and managed to find it at the end of Cape Dombey. The conditions were never going to be the same as what he had but that particular rock was a fascinating subject to photograph. The top right photograph is of Port Willunga jetty which locals have photographed millions of times. I like to think that there are no other images of those poles with that type of water movement during a stormy morning with a rainbow in the background but you never know when the conditions might align again. The bottom left image was inspired by the beautiful wedding work of Paul McCall (PaulMac photography). The backlit bride has been done many a time in the past but his particular work inspired this image. The bottom right image is the only one which I cannot instantly recall an inspiration for but was an image we specifically aimed for having done a scouting trip previously. On the whole, I believe that the photographic community seems reluctant to give credit to those whose work have directly inspired our own. What’s wrong with a shout-out to the person who inspired your image? Thanks Joel & Paul for these particular examples!!
A word on Icons:
A hot topic which currently graces the blog headlines of many photographers is the issue of icons. Before I say another word, I’d like you to answer this question:
“Why is an icon an icon?”
Cradle mountain is one such icon which has been photographed by millions of photographers worldwide. The most common perspective is from Dove Lake and a particular composition in vogue is the one with a certain set of rocks in the foreground. I have visited the location on a few occasions and each time, I have aimed to take at least a few photographs from the northern shores of Dove Lake at the golden hour. Why do I keep doing this instead of searching for other locations? First of all, I know that for non photographic reasons, I am always going to be standing in awe at this location at those times of the day. Secondly, during the day, I actually want to be doing some hiking and not focussing on taking photographs (there are other crazy personal goals to achieve like getting to Marion’s lookout in less than 2o minutes etc). Thirdly, I do want to see a specific viewpoint of a location with my own eyes even if I don’t end up taking a picture of ‘that’ particularly famous composition. Lastly, as a photographic challenge, I would love to come away with an image which I believe to be original and not done before.
To answer the question : I believe that icons select themselves as prime locations simply because they are wonderful locations to be. If you are limited for time (or mobility) , visiting the icon may be your ‘best bet’ to maximise your personal experience and photographic outcome. Most beginner or amateur photographers simply aren’t interested in challenging their creativity. They literally want to be there for ‘the shot’ of that location. If you’re reading this and you’re anything like me, I just want a trigger for a memory of the location , I want others to see what I want to them to see of my memory and of course, the congratulations from others doesn’t hurt either.
Copying or Coincidence?
I realise that there is no copyright on location and the chances of obtaining an image which has the exact same composition, lighting and prevailing weather conditions is slim. It is however, quite clear when another photographer has set out to mimic the exact same composition. This leads to another confession from me. Shortly after Marianne and I made a decision to actively take our photography further in 2008, we travelled around Tasmania to give ourselves an opportunity to test ourselves in the field. We had seen many striking images and of these, Kah Kit Yoong’s image of Horseshoe Falls was one which always sticks in my mind. Being a novice at the time (and still constantly learning now!) I wondered if I was able to photograph scenes in the way which we had seen on other people’s portfolios. We were trying to emulate our unknowing mentors at the time. Somewhat disappointingly, during that trip, we learned just how far we had to progress in order to achieve that same level of creativity and polish with our images. Some time later however, one of my images of Horseshoe Falls was accepted for the cover of Australian Photography Magazine! I immediately thought of Kah Kit Yoong’s original composition and as a courtesy, let him know what had happened. I don’t suppose that email was absolutely required nor is it a sentiment which most replicate.
To answer the question: Coincidences occur but when the act of copying was always the intention (such as in the above example) , my feeling is to swallow any pride, take a bite from that untouched slice of humble pie and at least let your audience know whose original vision your image stems from.
In conclusion, I accept that my images are largely versions of scenes which have been recorded by other photographers in the past. I accept that by coincidence or by meticulous planning, someone else has ‘been there and done that’. I accept that my ‘professional development’ as a photographer is driven by striving toward a standard set by my unknowing idols. By doing so, creativity is often not the aim of the exercise and the photographic result is another image of that same viewpoint of that same icon. What I do not readily accept is those who vehemently deny ever having used emulation as a form of self development. And lastly, don’t forget that landscape photography is not all about the photography. There is that first word ‘landscape’ to appreciate by your mere presence 😉
Posted on August 28, 2012, in How we..., Photography, Random Musings, South Australia, Tasmania and tagged Blog, Borrow, Bumbunga, composition, Copy, Copycat, copyright, Cradle Mountain, Debate, Discussion, Everlook, icon, Iconic, Icons, Landscape, Murray River, Photography, South Australia. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.